SAN DIEGO -- During a conversation with San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy at the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix, I asked him about the impact recent free-agent addition Stevie Johnson will have on the offense, and if he’s a direct replacement for Eddie Royal.
McCoy said that the organization had good information on Johnson from coaches on the staff that spent time with the 28-year-old receiver in Buffalo, including tight ends coach Pete Metzelaars, offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris and assistant offensive line coach Andrew Dees. All three coaches were on Buffalo’s coaching staff during Johnson’s tenure with the Bills.
“Obviously they’re not coaching the receivers,” McCoy said. “But they talked about what type of guy he was there and the success he had. Watching the film, it speaks for itself. Now, I know he didn’t have the production that he wanted to have last year in San Francisco, but he’s a very explosive player. I think he can do a lot of things that we would want another receiver to do in a unique role.”
McCoy’s comments about Johnson’s big-play ability intrigued me so I did some research. Johnson had three, 1,000-yard receiving seasons from 2010 to 2012. He finished with 1,046 yards after the catch during that time frame, good enough for No. 15 in the NFL.
Johnson also finished with 23 touchdown receptions from 2010 to 2012, tied for No. 12 in the NFL. Antonio Gates had 24 touchdowns during the same time frame, tied for No. 10 in the league.
While not a perfect swap for Royal, McCoy said he can do some similar things in the slot, but they have to get Johnson on the field with Philip Rivers to see what he does best within the framework of the offense.
“We’ve got to get him in our system first, because it’s different, going from Buffalo to San Francisco, and now with San Diego,” McCoy said. “He’ll get with Philip, and we will figure out what the two of them do best together. And if he’s the best route-runner in a certain situation, we’re going to do a lot of it and let him run it.”
Ultimately, the Chargers hope they have a healthy receiver in Johnson, who had an aberration in terms of his pro career at San Francisco last year and can get back to the production he put on tape while with Buffalo.
If Johnson can return to form, he’s offers the Chargers a polished route runner and versatile performer who should create explosive plays for Rivers and San Diego’s offense.